Many foods are overlooked for their vitamin and mineral content. Add variety to your diet to ensure you are providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs. Check out these surprising foods that are actually good sources of certain vitamins and minerals.
» Vitamin C — Vitamin C provides antioxidants that help protect your body against free radical damage and helps to boost your immune system. When we think of vitamin C we usually think of citrus foods such as oranges. However, if you are not consuming citrus foods on a daily basis that is okay if you are including these foods into your diet: Red bell peppers have almost twice the vitamin C of an orange. A cup of broccoli contains the recommended vitamin C for one day. Brussels sprouts, kiwi, cantaloupe, and cauliflower also contain vitamin C.
» Calcium — Think you have to drink milk and eat cheese to get calcium? Not so. Many non-dairy sources are also high in calcium. Eating fish with edible bones such as canned salmon is a good calcium source. Try making salmon patties from wild-caught canned salmon that contains the bones. The bones are so soft and brittle that they can easily be broken up into the salmon patty mixture before cooking and you will not taste them. Other sources of calcium include collard greens, kale, broccoli, turnips, garlic, arugula, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, okra, red kidney beans, chick peas, figs, sardines, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds and wheat grass. To help absorb calcium, your body needs vitamin D and vitamin K. Make sure you are not overlooking these vitamins to ensure calcium is being used effectively in the body.
» Iron — Meat, such as beef, may be what some may think of when it comes to iron. If you’re not a fan of beef, don’t worry, because iron is found in many other foods besides animal products. Heme iron is found in animal foods and is absorbed better in the body. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods and is not absorbed as well as heme. However, you can boost absorption of non-heme foods by pairing them vitamin C-rich foods. Foods such as beans, lentils, cashews and dark green leafy vegetables are forms of non-heme iron. To get the most absorption out of non-heme iron sources try consuming your salad that contains leafy greens with diced oranges or bell peppers. Or top it with a dressing made with lime or lemon juice. Also, cooking in a cast iron pan helps add iron to foods. Iron helps to deliver oxygen to cells throughout the body, so if you don’t get enough, you may experience fatigue, pale skin, headaches and cold hands and feet.
» Vitamin D — Even though the sun is the best source of vitamin D, you can get it is small amounts from some foods. There are few foods that contain vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in America. You should still aim to get 10-15 minutes in the sun daily. Food sources of vitamin D include salmon (make sure to purchase wild-caught for optimal vitamin D), sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, egg yolks, and some mushrooms.
» Potassium — Potassium is a mineral that the body uses for numerous functions and is essential for bone and heart health. A potassium-rich diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and help to lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans don’t get enough potassium from their diets. The 2015–20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans classifies potassium as a nutrient of public health concern. If you are not a fan of bananas, no need to fear because there are many foods that contain as much potassium or more than bananas. Dried apricots, lentils, acorn squash, raisins, potatoes, and kidney beans contain more potassium than a banana. Other potassium rich foods include spinach, salmon, tomatoes, broccoli and cantaloupe.
Mandy Nix is a registered dietitian in Morganton who writes a weekly nutrition column for The News Herald. For questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.